September 1, 2012
If you are a Clemson fan, the car has been packed for two days, the flags have been flying since you left for work Monday morning, you were decked out in all orange yesterday for Solid Orange Friday, and you left shortly after you got off work to make your way to Atlanta. Chances are you got very little sleep last night because you were too excited for the kickoff of the 2012 Clemson football season.
And, this morning you most likely woke up with a huge smile on your face because you know in a few short hours you will watch your [Clemson] Tigers in the Georgia Dome, clap your hands to the sounds of Tiger Band, and yell Cadence Count at the top of your lungs with 31,000 of your closest friends.
Who will win bragging rights in the final game between the Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic?
NO. 14 CLEMSON VS. AUBURN
WHY CLEMSON MIGHT WIN
The Clemson Tigers return playmakers in Nuk Hopkins, Andre Ellington, Jaron Brown, Brandon Ford, Charone Peake, and Martavis Bryant on offense. And, with Tajh Boyd returning at quarterback anything is possible. Boyd showed during the first eight games of last season that he can get the ball to his skill players and put the team in position to win. If the offensive line can give him time, it will be a very long night for Auburn.
On defense, Clemson is very inexperienced, but with a simplified scheme they have a chance to be very successful. In this first game, Clemson is going against a revamped offensive line for Auburn that will be without starter Reese Dismukes after he was arrested last weekend for public intoxication. In addition to an inexperienced offensive line, Auburn is starting quarterback Kiehl Frazer who played in all 13 games a year ago, but only attempted 12 passes. If Clemson can contain Auburn’s running game and let the linebackers and defensive line take over, Auburn’s success on offense will be very limited.
WHY AUBURN MIGHT WIN
For all of the talk of Clemson’s playmakers, Auburn has a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball and it all begins with senior running back Onterio McCalebb, who rushed for 641 yards and five touchdowns last season. If the Auburn offensive line gives him a crease he will run a long way. Frazier could be a nightmare for Clemson’s defense - Clemson is known to have had difficulty with running quarterbacks in the past. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen can be a match-up problem for Clemson as well because he is a big, physical receiving threat that isn’t easily covered by a linebacker.
Defensively, Auburn is very talented and is under the leadership of former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder who is known to blitz a lot. At the forefront of that blitz will be Auburn’s most explosive defensive player in Corey Lemonier- who we’ll discuss later. Auburn is very talented on defense, but similar to Clemson in that there isn’t a lot of experienced depth behind the starters.
Clemson wide receiver Jaron Brown: When people think about Clemson’s playmakers on offense Sammy Watkins, Nuk Hopkins, and Andre Ellington are usually the first that come to mind. The forgotten man is senior wide receiver Jaron Brown who a year ago was clutch for the Tigers. If it was third down and long, Brown was on the receiving end of a Tajh Boyd pass converting for the first down. Auburn’s defense will key in on Ellington and Hopkins leaving Brown unnoticed. If he can continue his consistency from 2011, he could be the key to a Clemson victory.
Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier: Corey Lemonier is the anchor on a very talented Auburn defensive line and was an All-SEC selection in 2011. The junior defensive end tallied 47 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks last season. He has battled injuries during fall camp, but Auburn head coach Gene Chizik expects him to play Saturday night. Lemonier will either be matched up with redshirt junior Brandon Thomas who is the second most experienced offensive lineman on Clemson’s roster or with redshirt sophomore Giff Timothy who has never started a game. Clemson must slow Lemonier down in order to be successful in both the passing and running games.
Clemson right guard Tyler Shatley: Clemson fans have longed for an offensive lineman that will be a physical and imposing player on every down, and Dabo Swinney thinks he has found that man in Tyler Shatley. Shatley is a defensive tackle turned offensive lineman after there was a concern about the lack of depth on the line. According to multiple players, Shatley brings that nastiness that the line has been missing since the days of Dustin and Roman Fry. Expect Clemson running back Andre Ellington to run to the right side behind Shatley for the majority of the game. If he can open up holes for Ellington and company, the Auburn defense is in for a long night in the Georgia Dome.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
This is the rubber match between the Tigers and as we’ve seen over the previous two years, anything can happen. Both teams have come back from large deficits to win in dramatic fashion- Auburn in 2010 and Clemson in 2011. And, let’s not forget that this game is in the dreaded Georgia Dome. Clemson is very explosive on offense with playmakers at wide receiver and running back and I’m not sure that the Auburn defense has the horses to stay with Clemson for four quarters. On defense, Clemson fans will be pleasantly surprised with improvement on that side of the ball. Expect the game to be close heading into the fourth quarter, but the good guys- Clemson- will pull away.
FINAL SCORE 35-24, CLEMSON
Post written by Clemson Girl's sports bloggess Nikki Steele.